On countless occasions BBC audiences have repeatedly read or heard permutations of the following message, with the implication being that Israeli concerns regarding the misuse of construction materials entering Gaza are in fact much ado about nothing.
“Israel continues to enforce tight restrictions on the amount of building materials allowed into Gaza, saying they could fall into the hands of Hamas and be used for military purposes.”
A grossly inaccurate, partial and out of date BBC backgrounder titled “Guide: Gaza under blockade” which still appears on the BBC News website even goes so far as to state that:
“Israel says Hamas has diverted aid in the past, and could appropriate building materials for its own use. Aid agencies say they have stringent monitoring systems in place.”
The announcement on Sunday, October 13th 2013 regarding the IDF’s discovery of a 1.7 kilometer long, 18 meter deep, concrete-clad tunnel spanning the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel should surely put paid to any further insinuations that control of the entry of building materials into the Gaza Strip is an unwarranted product of Israeli exaggeration. Obviously, the suspicion that building materials intended for civilian reconstruction projects are being expropriated by Hamas for military use is not unfounded and impartial journalists will now of course be investigating that diversion of resources from the civilian sector.
Despite its “smaller operation at the weekend“, the BBC News website produced an article on the subject within hours of the announcement. On the website’s Middle East homepage, visitors could opt for a filmed report or a written one – both of which displayed interesting use of scare-quotes in their headings.
Does the BBC really think that the intent of the tunnel might not have been for purposes of terrorism, or that it might not have been found in Israel – as its choice of punctuation implies?
As one BBC Watch reader pointed out to us, that use of punctuation is particularly noticeable in contrast with the headline to a domestic story which appears concurrently on the website’s main page.
In the written version of the article – which has undergone considerable changes (including to its title) since its initial publication – and in the synopsis to the filmed item, readers are told that:
“Israel has responded by halting the transfer of all construction materials to Gaza. Restrictions on the private sector were lifted last month.” [emphasis added]
This is not the first time that the BBC has misled audiences in relation to the entry of construction materials for the private sector to the Gaza Strip: back in August the BBC Jerusalem Bureau’s Yolande Knell made similar claims. In fact, restrictions were further relaxed – rather than “lifted” – with the amount of materials entering the Gaza Strip for use in the private sector having been raised in September 2013 from twenty truckloads per day to seventy.
The written article also states:
“Israel tightened a blockade on Gaza when Hamas took power in 2007.”
That misleading pro-forma line has been used in many other BBC News articles in the past. As we have previously noted here:
“The violent Hamas take-over of Gaza took place between June 5th and 15th 2007 and the Palestinian Authority – the internationally recognized representative of the Palestinian people – was forcefully ejected from power. Following that event, both Egypt and Israel largely closed their borders with the Gaza Strip due to the fact that the body charged with joint security arrangements under the terms of the Oslo Accords – the Palestinian Authority – no longer exercised any control over the territory.
Three months later – on September 19th 2007 – in light of the escalation of terrorist rocket attacks against Israeli civilians originating in the now Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip – the Israeli government declared Gaza to be ‘hostile territory’.
“Hamas is a terrorist organization that has taken control of the Gaza Strip and turned it into hostile territory. This organization engages in hostile activity against the State of Israel and its citizens and bears responsibility for this activity.
In light of the foregoing, it has been decided to adopt the recommendations that have been presented by the security establishment, including the continuation of military and counter-terrorist operations against the terrorist organizations. Additional sanctions will be placed on the Hamas regime in order to restrict the passage of various goods to the Gaza Strip and reduce the supply of fuel and electricity. Restrictions will also be placed on the movement of people to and from the Gaza Strip. The sanctions will be enacted following a legal examination, while taking into account both the humanitarian aspects relevant to the Gaza Strip and the intention to avoid a humanitarian crisis.”
It is a pity that an otherwise reasonable article is marred by such sloppy inaccuracies and bizarre use of punctuation.